“Dumela”, "Good morning/Good Afternoon/Good Night" in Basotho
It was quite the journey, 36 hours of travel time from the Columbia River Gorge to Lesotho, Africa. Known as the Kingdom in the Sky, Lesotho is entirely land-locked by South Africa, and has the highest lowest point of any country in the world (1400m or 4593 ft). It is the only country in the world to be entirely above 1000 meters! It is the land of no fences -- rather, the land is owned by King Letsie III, who gives permission to inhabit the land.
Upon crossing the border in Maseru, capital of Lesotho, it was apparent we were out of our comfort zone, as street vendors lined the streets selling grapes and peaches, rushing vehicles as they sped by. Security were at every gas station wearing kevlar vests, holding a machine gun. We were mean mugged immediately by most of the population as we later learned our van was identical to a taxi, and we weren't stopping to pick anyone up. Shops, SIM card stores and hair salons lined the streets with their corrugated metal siding and roofs, as people roamed the streets. There was no order to this chaos.
We quickly worked our way to Roma and were greeted by the many smiling faces of the children of Lesotho as well as the lovely staff at Roma Trading Post (RTP). The trading post sits at the base of the Maluti Mountains, and up until 2017 was the original site of trade in Roma -- donkeys, grain, cattle, pigs, chickens, you name it. The premise was eventually converted into housing, and is the current site of one of Velosolutions #pumpforpeace pumptrack, offering the children of Roma a place to gather off the street.
So why Lesotho? Why Kingdom Enduro? We met Rene Damseaux and his brother Francois way back when in Molini di Triora Italy, after racing EWS Final Ligure. We rode Final, Molini and San Remo together, becoming quick friends -- We’ve kept in touch and when Rene invites us to his race (in its second year), the first EWS qualifier on the African continent, we knew we couldn’t miss out!
Ladies and Gentleman, meet Rene Damseaux.
Trails in Lesotho are all hand built by Rene and his team of locals — providing jobs within the local community. Trails are rugged, raw, and require hiking to the top, every time. And by top, I mean top of the mountain, because each trail literally starts at the top of a mountain. Trails feature slick rock, rock ledges, boulder gardens, and a tad bit of flow. But mostly techy rock. While the hike-a-bikes are a thing, especially in 90F heat, the views at the top more than make up for it! Not to mention, the herder boys and town children who run alongside you the entire way, “Give me sweets”, “Give me money” or simply to help you push or carry your bike to the top.
We were on bikes upon arrival, riding trails behind RTP with the town children. Practice started the next day, offering a short introduction to local dirt and hike-a-bikes. Over the next few days, we would wake early to beat the heat while riding, and practice days 2, 1 and 3 respectively.
Lunch consisted of chicken and pap: braai (BBQ) chicken with a side of pap (white maiz/cornmash: an accompaniment to every meal), and local greens with peri-peri pepper sauce.
Evenings were filled with crashing thunderstorms and hail that filled the streets with water. Around the dinner table, there was plenty of chatter amongst new friends, mostly from SA, some from Europe, and a few from the states. Notable riders included Chris Johnston, Ludo May, Max Schumann and Fabian Scholz, as well as SA Enduro Champion, Frankie Dupont.
Mid-race, Day 3 (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Race Days came and went: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. While a few trails were pedally, I was very happy with my decision to bring my Spartan 27.5. Trails were rocky, techy and steep, perfect for 165mm travel. The sun and heat were a challenge over the course of long days, but manageable. Days one and two of racing were my favorite, with steep rock roll ins, and challenging, but manageable tech, while Day 3 took tech to the extreme!
Racing through villages along footpaths made for some close calls, mostly with cattle, lots of them. Photo: Michael Kirkman)
Day 1, Stage 1 Start (GoPro)
Day 2. (Photo Keira Duncan, 2018 SA National Champion)
Follow the arrows, slick-rock style! Thanks for the mid-stage motivation, Rene!
Another stage, another start on top of a mountain (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Day 2, Stage 3: Bushman's Pass (Photo: Michael Kirkman)
Nick Hardin, mechanic, foodie, shuttle-driver and mega-husband (Photo: Kim Hardin)
At the end of the three days, I walked away with the win, followed by Frankie Dupont and Sandra Hohl— Pretty happy with that for the first race of the year! Chris Johnston (Santa Cruz) took the win in the men’s, followed by Ludo May (BMC) and SA ripper Tim Bentley.
While out recovering from ACL surgery, Nick wasn’t able to race, but was able to explore local gravel roads, climbing the passes by which the race descended, such as God Help Me Pass, Bushman’s and Blue Mountain.
Of perhaps most important relative to the event was the awareness brought to us regarding the local community. Unbeknownst to us, there were so many kids on the trails because local school teachers were on strike, meaning kids were not in school. This meant that the kids were not getting lunch, and were generally unsupervised throughout the day as parents were working. Poverty is very prevalent in Lesotho and a rising concern, as is the growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS -- about 25% of the population are HIV positive. Related to this, Kingdom Enduro raised enough money via Velosolutions to provide meals for all the local kids for a few months! We can only hope more aid comes to this country to help not only the current generation, but the next.
It's Safari time!
The morning after the race, a crew consisting of race director Rene Damseaux, Ludo May, Chris Johnston, Max Schumann, Fabian Scholz, Nancy Pellissier, Nick & myself took off on a 13 hr journey to Pont Drift, the border of SA and Botswana via Johannesburg for a safari by bike with Cycle Mashatu.
Mashatu operates specifically in the 29,000 hectares (72000 acres) Mashatu Game Reserve, located in the Tuli Game Reserve in the Limpopo province, a known higher-risk malaria area, as well as location of recent foot and mouth disease outbreak (animals only).
Cycle Mashatu, Botswana, Africa (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Entering Botswana, we passed through a "Foot and Mouth Disease Checkpoint" and were required to dip our shoes, and have our bike tires sprayed with chemical (Photo: Kim Hardin)
We were greeted by Mario, one of our guides for the trip, and quickly ushered into Botswana for lunch and a safety briefing: “we do not want to see lions by bike”, “snakes are more scared of us than we are of them” (but there are plenty black mambas, puff adders, and spitting cobras in the area), “stop when I say stop, and be quiet when I say be quiet”.
Mario (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Team Meeting, led by Mario (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
One of the many dry, sandy stream bed crossings. They only see water as flash floods in the summer "rainy season", between November and April (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Once on bikes, we hustled to camp before dark, while quickly learning the ins and outs of safari: the animals are quite different when approached by bike versus vehicle. They see each person as an individual, and us a “herd”, while a vehicle is viewed a one large Individual, making them less threatening, especially as the animals have become accustomed to vehicles on the regular. This meant that when approaching an animal, they would generally run away, or in the case of elephants, want to charge us. It was most important to respect each and every individual animal and give wide berth, especially to Elephants, always having an “escape route”. This is no zoo, this is the real bush, and the animals clearly rule the bush. As we were getting to camp on Day 1, we came across our first Elephant, who quietly stalked us—we looped away only to hear and see a mock charge and trumpet from a second elephant nearby, prompting another loop away. After about 20 minutes of sneaking through the bush, looping our way past Ellie’s, we made it to camp. What an intro! Did I mention, Mario guided us through the bush without use of GPS? He did this everyday over a huge area of land and knew where we were at all times - impressive!
Nancy Pellissier, Ludo May, Rene D., Mario, Nick Hardin, Chris Johnston, Max Schumann, Kim Hardin and Fabien Scholz under the great Mashatu Tree. (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Breakfast is served: Yogurt, muesli, fruit and fresh-made bread (Photo: Kim Hardin)
The circle of life was very apparent in Mashatu. Fabien shows us a Kudu skull: a savannah "antelope" (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Riding in the bush-bush, as Mario says of Day 2 (Photo: Nick Hardin)
Elephants or "Ellies" were everywhere (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Ludo May, dropping in (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Dinner by fire & coal: Curries, meat stews, boboti, squash, and "pap" were staples.
(Photo: Chris Johnston)
I'd say ACL rehab is going well... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Devinci Spartans in the wild (Photo: Chris Johnston)
Stories by firelight (Photo: Chris Johnston)
When in the bush.... (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
In the middle of no-where, Botswana, taking in the views of Mashatu Game Reserve (Photo: Nick Hardin)
The next few days we rode between 25-35km per day, guided by Mario and Lion. Between the two of our guides, they had over 12 years of experience guiding by bike, and a resulting plethora of knowledge in regards to animals, vegetation, and astronomy.
Photo: Nick Hardin
A group of giraffes is called a genie, while a single giraffe is known as a “tower”. Females have straighter “horns”, while males have tufts at the top.
A lions roar can be heard from over 8km away (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Mom and her baby Ellie (Photo: Chris Johnston)
While Lions mate for five straight days, every 5-15 minutes, elephants are pregnant for 24 months! A baby elephant on average weighs 250#. Elephants drink over 150l of water a day, and urinate over 50l of water a day!
Vervet Monkeys do indeed throw shit (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Just your typical Mashatu Safari camp (Photo: Kim Hardin)
A day in the safari life consisted of waking up around 6am to leave by 7am. Once on trail, we would “read the morning newspaper”, looking to the tracks from overnight as to what animals were nearby. We would see giraffes, zebra, impala, and baboons almost immediately, with Eland, cheetah, warthog, and leopard on occasion. The animal density was very high, meaning we never really had to “look” for the animals, they were always there.
Around 12:30pm, we would stop for high tea (Roobios of course. Coffee too, although most drink beer), and observe the hundreds of thorns in our tires. Thank goodness we brought extra sealant! We’d ride for another hour or two, Ludo would find a tree or two to ride down (or up?), while Max and Chris took proper photos, and the rest of us watched in awe. We’d then settle in at camp for a bucket shower and rest— it was simply too hot to be out pedaling midday for very long. Simple but delicious dinners were cooked over coals in cast iron. After an astronomy lesson or two, we’d go to bed and do it all over again the next day, hoping to hear the roar of a lion or cackle of a hyena in the distance.
It may have been 90 degrees out, but high tea was always a welcome stop! (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Ludo May, embracing the way of the Vervet Monkey (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Got sealant? Don't pull the thorns or you'll flat! (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Sometimes the "trail" was a road, sometimes the trail was simply our own going off-road through the bush (Photo: Rene Damseaux)
Proper tea time, Landcruiser and all... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
The third day of the trip was most memorable: we rounded a corner and our guide Mario stopped abruptly and told us to be very quiet. He pointed to the ground and what was a very fresh lion track. Lion in Mashatu are very elusive (6 in 23,000 hectares) and we were very close to one.
Mario, talking tracks... (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Mario radioed the sighting, and a larger safari truck came for support, while we pedaled in a direction opposite that from the tracks. Whew, that was close! I think we all were excited about seeing a lion, but not so excited to be on the ground with one, especially if it didn’t like bikes.
That evening we “rolled da wheels” (Mario’s queue in Afrikaan accent), into our last camp: Rather than sleep in tents, we slept under the stars, in a “Boma” of sorts, a protected circle with a fire in the middle. Vervet monkeys made home in the Mashatu tree above us, greeting us with plenty of entertainment upon arrival (shit-throwing). The go-away bird was almost constant “wahhhh”, and quickly became the group’s “chant”. We were told to watch for lions as “this area has quite a few”. I was still on the look out for snakes.
Our "boma" camp for the night (Photo: Kim Hardin)
A view inside our "boma" camp for the night (Photo: Nick Hardin)
Nick and Rene, taunting the nearby baboons (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Chris Johnston making the most of sundown next to the renown Baobab Tree, Africa's Iconic "Tree of Life" (Photo: Kim Hardin)
Throughout the night, baboon and Hyena talked nearby, but the lions stayed away. Rhinoceros bugs were a plenty, as were the “talky talky” big, known to beat their legs against their chest as they walk in search of a female.
Our last morning came quickly, and we hustled back to the border, full of new perspective and appreciation for such a special experience. Between the Kingdom Enduro and our Cycle Safari, we're reminded how simple life is, and how it's not things that enrich our lives, but the people and experiences along the way.
Kim & Nick Hardin
Each and every person's feet are unique: short, long, wide, narrow, smelly, the works.... Giro makes a shoe for everyone, one that's comfortable, stays in place and well outperforms other brands.
For Nick and I, that shoe is the Terraduro Mid. Cousin to the Terraduro, the Mid offers greater ankle protection on a similar Vibram platform.
Upon putting on the shoe, you notice the higher ankle on the shoe immediately, as well as rubberized high-traction Vibram sole, with rubber heel and toe reinforcement -- nice for those of us who find ourselves wanting a minimalist clipless shoe with a sole we can still hike about in. I've climb up and down some gnarly stuff in these shoes, and never found myself slipping. You'll lose trust in yourself relative to what you can walk on before you lose trust in these shoes!
Simple, but Fancy:
Upon putting on the shoes, you'll notice they are simple, but fancy. Simple in terms of the lace system and outer shroud, but fancy in the details of the design: Evofiber Uppers (water repellant, easily cleanable, high breathability), Vibram sole and molded EVA footbed. You'll also notice the shoe itself has limited seams, meaning the shoe is lighter, and has less places for water to enter the shoe when standing around in the rain (or dancing in puddles!). The cleat "pocket" is water sealed.
I've worn these shoes on all day epics, crossing creeks, hike a biking for hours, grocery shopping, even road biking, and have never gotten blisters, anywhere on my feet, no matter my sock choice. They are the most comfortable pair of cycling shoes I've ever worn, and offer support both where you want and need.
I wear these shoes throughout most of the year, however, do find myself switching to a proper Gore-tex lined winter shoe for winter. Granted, we ride in the snow quite a bit, and temperatures regularly dip into the 20's, but these aren't quite warm enough for year round riding in the PNW.
I've worn these shoes in all conditions, and am impressed at the quality of construction. I generally go through a pair of shoes a year with the amount of riding and general beating-up of shoes I do, however, I just finished my second season on a pair and they look the same as they did a year ago. Not one thread is dangling. Sole shows normal wear, but no peeling or abnormal wear. The outer material wipes clean easily, and the footbed has held up well. I may even try to get a third season out of them!
These shoes will take anything you can throw at them, including those all day adventures and nature hikes (because you forgot your hiking shoes). Expect the best because they are the best. Giro knows what's up!
As soon as we're done practicing, it's game on to get our bikes ready for race day.
Generally this involves a bike wash, wheel swap (cassette, brake rotor, and tire), fine tuning of drivetrain, as well as a swap out of whatever parts you may want to change or replace (for performance decisions, as well as if any damage was done during practice).
Let's just say that life as a blue collar racer isn't as glamorous as it is for the true professionals.
While factory riders sit back analyzing Go Pro videos, eating all the snacks, taking naps, and generally resting while their mechanics and team managers take care of things, Nick and I are generally hustling from practice to wheel/tire swap (don't forget the cassette and rotors), to food, to watching GoPro far too late into the night where we ask ourselves are we benefitting from watching this more than the the sleep we are losing from staying up so late.
Over the years, we've figured out ways to make this bike prep more efficient from a blue collar standpoint, while ensuring we're able to rest as much as possible, recover from practice, replenish calories, and get ourselves ready mentally for race day.
Here's our top five tips for race day prep:
1. Bring a Spare Wheelset with New Tires Pre-Beaded
A spare wheel set is self explanatory. New Tires pre-beaded with sealant may not be.
Ideally whatever type of wheel you are practicing on (aluminum or carbon), you are racing on. Each wheel rides a little differently as they vary in internal/external widths, as well as stiffness (particularly laterally). Not enough to truly make a big deal, but it's noticeable. Between the lines, get to know your gear....
New tires already mounted (& beaded!) is not self explanatory. For the longest time, we would bring a spare wheel set, but wait to mount tires, as we wanted to be sure we were choosing the right tire for the conditions. This is very important, however, between a little ahead-of-time research (reading trail reports -- are trails clay based and slick when it rain? Is it rocky and dusty? What does the weather look like for race weekend?), you can make a pretty good condition on the tires you will be running. Mount brand ones on your race wheels, and add sealant BEFORE you leave for the race). After practice, once you've had your wheels on the dirt, you can decide if you want to change your race tire, but you've potentially saved your time knowing it was forecasted to rain, by mounting your favorite wet tire. Worst case you pull it off and simply have another spare laying around in case you get a flat.
Not to mention, in foreign countries it can be very difficult to find compressed air to properly bead your tire. In Italy, I think it took us three hours to find a gas station with a hose that fit our valves. In Chile, I borrowed a plastic Coca Cola liter version of an "AirShot" that was terrifying, but did the job.
With the invention of the "Burst" pumps, that pre-pressurize a chamber via pump-action and release it in one go into the tire, it is less common of a problem in terms of mounting tires, but still something to be aware of.
By Colombia, we'd learned and mounted new tires on BOTH practice and race wheelsets, giving us a few tread options for race day, not to mention the few extra tires we brought along as well.
We didn't have to do any last minute tire swaps. Our race day wheels were ready, minus rotors and made for a much easier evening, saving time for dinner and GoPro Review.
Remember: you can always go to a bike shop and buy tires, BUT it's highly likely they won't have your casing of chose, and will be out of CO2, especially if an international race focused in a small town. Call ahead and have them hold CO2 for you, or plan to find elsewhere.... On another note, I do not recommend flying with CO2 -- our boarding passes were taken away from us in Colombia for having it, after three years of no problems. You decide if it's worth the risk!
AND... if you have to mount tires the night before race day, be sure you check tread direction.....
2. Bring a Mini-drill!
Mini-drills can save boat loads of time, and headaches.... especially when it comes to rotor bolts. Make sure you've got the right head for your bolts, and blast away (but always remember to hand start - no one needs a stripped out hub).
Top of the World, Whistler
3. BYOB: Bring-your-own-food
Food is vital to recovering from practice, but also to your success on race day.
By bringing all your on-bike food with you from home you can save on grocery shopping time, while still ensuring you get what you need. We like baby food packets, bacon, nuts, whole food whenever possible, and bars if necessary (fewer ingredients the better -- Larabar, Kate's, Kind).
Not to mention, sometimes, at international aide stations, you'll roll up and there's loads of chocolate, waifers, and chips. If that's your go-to, good for you. Otherwise, you might be screwed. Always bring your own food.
Nick pondering trail snacks in Argentina
4. Pre-trip tune
If your schedule allows, get a pre-race tune before you leave your home. Chances are you hit the ground running once you get to your destination, going for practice then racing. There's not a whole lot of extra ride time prior to racing. After all, you want to save your energy.
With this in mind, go ahead and replace your cable and housing, service your fork/shock if needed, bleed your brakes and replace your pads, bleed your seat dropper, swap to new tires on practice and race wheels (see #1). While you can have a shitty or generally heinous practice day that has you doing all this the night before race day, you can at least try to do what you can to save yourself time (and parts!).
However, just because this was done, doesn't mean it shouldn't be looked over, and practice take into consideration relative to wear and tear on parts. How does my cable look post practice? How about my brake pads? What's the weather like tomorrow/what's the dirt like -- should I be concerned my pads will wear all the way?
5. Bring Spares and Learn How to Work on your bike.
Dakine's new bike bag fits ALL the spares, and more! Pack those nooks and crannies!
Self-explanatory -- this saves loads of times, and stress.
You're no longer waiting in a massive line at Shimano or SRAM to get your brakes bled, or snag a new rear derailleur (which they might not even have) or running to a bike shop for new pedals.
While it's time saving to sometimes keep out of the Shimano/SRAM pits, they are mighty fun!
Speaking of balance, my weekend opened up, so I decided to head north for a weekend at the inaugural Raging River Festival! Put on by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Saturday featured an XC and Sunday an Enduro on mostly new (ish) trails along the I90 corridor near Seattle, Washington. This zone was only recently established as a riding area, and has so much room for growth, especially noting its proximity to Tiger Mountain and Exit 27 trails.
For Sunday's Enduro, the Cascadia Dirt Cup put together a course of about 29 miles on trails such as "Invictus" and "No Service". It was a collective of about every kind of trail you can ride: rooty tech (lots of pumping), flow tabletops and doubles, tight & twisty flow, loamy chutes... a little bit of everything-- One of the most unique local venues of the year for sure!
Schedule had us doing one shuttle lap for practice late Saturday, followed by a quick tire swap, and bike tune for Sunday's race.
Despite some of the warmest temperatures on record for 2018, the event went off with a BANG early Sunday. We made quick work of the transfer to stage 1, and lily-padded and pumped our way down the first two stages, to re-learn to corner on stage 3, and hit some jumps on the way down stage 4. Such a cool venue, and an amazing inaugural event -- I will be back!
All in all was a great weekend, with some first place bling to take home to the family. Thanks for having me Camille and Trey, CDC!
Chris King Precision Components need no introduction. CKPC is the "top of the line" for hubs and other components in the MTB Industry. Their hubs are known to be smooth, fast and last forever, special thanks to their angular-contact bearings, and easy ability to service. #buzz #ceramicplease
Their angular-contact bearings (Steel and ceramic) are designed and made in house in Portland, Oregon, with every one assembled and inspected by hand. What makes these bearings special? They allow for adjustment as they are used; they age "like a fine wine". Hub shells and components come in a variety of fun anodized colors, to play matchy-matchy as much as you want with your new bike.
The new "boost" hubset (Iso B Front and Rear) features the patented Ring Drive with 72 simultaneous points of engagement, making for a "quick to spin up" wheel. The feel is smooth, and the hub stiff, special thanks to the one-piece axle, and flanges making for a stronger wheel-build. Side-note: CKPC is lesser known for domestically sourcing their cutting oil, for recycling all their metal chips from the CNC machines, and most importantly sourcing every component domestically. Go CKPC!
Wheel-wise, the new Santa Cruz Reserve 30 Rims, run an inner width of 30mm and are my first carbon wheel. For comparison, I've been riding the Easton/Race Face Arc 27 aluminum rim for the last few years, and have been hesitant to ride carbon, but with the lifelong guarantee, I decided to give the SC rims a try after all the positive reviews. (Note: I've ridden the SC Reserve rims in a variety of conditions with a variety of Maxxis tire treads: dry, wet, aggressive tread, small block tread). Immediately, upon building the wheels, I noticed the reinforced nipple flanges -- built this way to prevent spokes from ripping out of the rim - COOL! The hoops were light, yet seemed well-built.
Put the two together, and you've got one stiff, yet lightweight wheelset. On trail, the wheels felt stiff enough to "rail" the ruts, but not too stiff. I noticed I was able to run about 2-3psi lower in both front and rear compared to the Arc 27 (27 internal width), and appreciated the extra traction. Tires were hard to mount, and took significantly more effort to do so than an aluminum wheel, however, once on, the bead was on real tight, even with lower pressures.
Through techy rock gardens, big drops (10-15ft step downs), and plenty of high speed cornering, I felt confident in the quality of the wheels and never once questioned their strength or durability. Pretty excited to be racing with these this season!
Buy this wheel set directly from CKPC: http://wheelshop.chrisking.com/santa-cruz-reserve-30-27-5-28-28/
Thanks for all the support, Chris King and Juliana Bicycles!
Owning your own business isn't all fun and games. It's a whole lot of work, but oh so rewarding.
Our typical day starts at 6am, ending usually somewhere between 3pm and 7pm, depending on the day. Filled with mostly what you'd expect and a handful of things you wouldn't: staffing/scheduling, food orders, menu design, bills, event planning, marketing, growth projections, R&D, finding new local artists, taking inventory, ordering staff uniforms, meeting with staff... I could go on and on and on. The fact of the matter is, the to-do list never ends, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
After our typical work day, you can find us in the gym, on the road bike or out on the trail for about 3 hours, after which we quickly make dinner, take the dogs to the park, and attempt to be in bed by 9 to do it all over again tomorrow. It's a challenge to fit it all in. Some weeks we're on point, while others, we are slammed with events at KickStand, and we're off the bike or out of the gym for 4 days in a row. Talk about disconcerting knowing your competitors are on their bike every day, doing intervals to exhaustion or logging those base miles...
Racing bikes professionally while owning a business is hard. Really hard. We do it to ourselves, in some regard, but wouldn't have it any other way. Our lives are all about Balance. Balance may be defined as "an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady." Sounds good to me, however, easier said than done.
What I've learned, however, living the life of a small-business owner in the food industry is that life is about prioritizing and responsibility. There's want-to's and need-to's, both in business and racing. It's taught me that while I am a professional athlete, and want to attend every race possible, at the end of the day, I need to be responsible, and take care of my business, not only for my future, but that of my staff. That I need structure through planning ahead, to meet the demands of both my business and racing.
While I had planned to attend the North American Enduro Cup this week, this weekend is a weekend where the needs of the business are greater than the that of racing. First world problems of blue collar business owner/racer -- Life is all about balance. Looks like I'll be adding a race to the schedule sometime this year!
Before we'd even finished Day 1 of the Crested Butte Big Mountain Enduro, Nick had cooked up a plan to break up the long drive home...
Rally to Moab immediately after finishing the race, sleep for a short bit, then catch an early morning shuttle to do the Whole Enchilada, in order to get back to the van before it got too hot, as well as leave us enough time to get to Boise (ish) by dark.
And that we did... The Whole Enchilada was closed above Burro Pass, so we started a smidge lower at Hazard, and bombed back to the van via typical LPS, Kokopelli, and Porcupine fashion.
Recovery is important after a race, but when you're driving right past Moab, a riding mecca, you have to stop, even if your legs are shredded. Trust me, it's worth it!
Pro tip: Do not attempt to "shower" in the river at the bottom of the trail. Contrary to popular belief, it's a giant mudhole, and takes multiple washes to get off. Oops.
Crested Butte = big days on the bike, lots of wildflowers, hike-a-bikes, dry and rocky terrain, big transfers, yummy tacos, and extraordinary van camping.
On a whim, we left work late Tuesday afternoon, drove to Boise for a quick eat at "Fork", and continued on to CB in record time: 18hrs, including dog stops, and stretch breaks. We came in hot mid-Wednesday afternoon with the plan to have hopefully just enough time to get rid of the near-constant altitude headache and nose-bleeds by raceday (living at 500 ft elevation doesn't help!). Rumor has it you either need to A) Live at altitude B) Sleep in an altitude tent C) Have at least two weeks to acclimatize properly D) Come in hot as you're in the "hole" on day 4. We chose the latter, as our attempt with an altitude tent in the middle of the summer with no AC in the house failed miserably the year prior.
Why not work a 12 hour day before you get on the road?
The hardest part about race weekends as a "privateer" , of sorts, is practice logistics -- in what order to practice the stages, how to approach them (hike/pedal up from the bottom, try to find someone to shuttle with), while trying to avoid the heat, save as must energy as possible and still properly see each stage. Whether you drive 30 minutes or 18 hours to race, you want to see every track, and give yourself the opportunity to do as well as possible. Seeing said tracks helps... a lot.
With that said, Crested Butte seems to be the exception to the rule -- the distances are large, the elevation great, and the climbing significant enough to make it very energy-consuming to pedal everything for practice. Without a shuttle, you're walking the line of truly benefitting from seeing the course vs. being so beat on race day, to a certain extent. Across the two days of practice, without a shuttle, we saw 3 of 4 stages, with stage 4 (the last one) being our blind stage. On race day, it turned out to be about a two hour hike-a-bike to on race day, in addition to the half hour of pedaling....
Consensus was that we made the right decision based on our situation. Friendly reminder to bring a moto for car retrieval in the future (Kosher as long as you're not riding trails on a moto -- not cool in a race scenario. Roads only!)
Big Mountain Enduro knows how to put on an event -- super dialed registration, event coordination, timing, the works! Both days pros met at 6:30am to load shuttles for the transfer to the first stage.
Stage 1: Cement Mtn to Rosebud
Stage 2: Doctor Gulch
Stage 3: Reno Ridge to Deadmans
Stage 4: Double Top into Warm Springs
Stream Crossing anyone? On the way to Doctor Park...
By the end of the weekend, I found myself not proud of losing my pedal panties on day one, but happy to have picked up the pace on day 2, made up some time and end up on the podium in 5th.
Nick had a few lies downs throughout the weekend, and ended up mid-pack. Regardless, what an awesome time in the woods with the ladies and gents! You can never have a bad time when your on your bike with fellow shredders -- The energy is contagious and the stoke high! Thanks for another great weekend, Colorado!
See you back in the PNW!
Kim & Nick Hardin
Yes, I am Giro biased, in that I ride Giro product, and have a relationship with the brand, HOWEVER, I only choose to represent brands whose product I stand behind. So while this may seem like a slightly biased review, it's honest and to the point...
The Giro Switchblade was designed with the enduro-ist in mind, featuring the ability to convert quickly and easily between a half-shell (sort-of) and ATSM certified full face via removable chin bar.
As a two-in-one helmet, it is fairly lightweight (975g) and makes travel easy, as you no longer need to bring two helmets with you -- full face and half-shell. It is a great compliment to the Giro Montara/o helmet, especially when you're looking for greater protection, but also warmth.
Upon first glance, without the chin bar, the helmet seems big, compared to other half shells. But when you put it all together, and "switch to rowdy", it all makes sense. When I first got the helmet, I wore it more so for DH, steeps/blind racing and for the extra warmth during the winter, less so for your after work trail ride. Overtime, I've come to really appreciate the extra protection, and prefer to wear this over a standard half-lid for even the shortest of rides. After all, if I'm wearing a helmet, I might as well really protect my brain, right? Compared to a standard half-shell, it's only slightly heavier and warmer, but not really noticeable unless you've spent a solid 8 hours or so in the saddle. It's super comfortable, and its ROC LOC Air DH Fit System offers a range of adjustability to fit your head just right, securing well at the base of your skull with little to no movement while riding.
Gone are the days of losing cheekpads from pulling them when you're climbing. Gone are the days of traveling with two helmets. Gone are the days of wishing you had brought your full face. The Switchblade makes life easy, and offers the best of protection. Oh, and it's MIPS -- that stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which is known to help reduce forces exerted on the brain during a crash.
Cool feature: Go Pro mount hard-mounted on the underside of the visor! Just plug and play!
My only complaint: plastic screws holding on the visor. I wish these were metal w/ metal thread inserts as well for a more bomber connection. In a bomber crash, it's not uncommon for these to break.
What's your favorite thing about the Switchblade?
See you on the trail,
There's nothing like a little "Hometown Throwdown"! No matter how well you know your local trails, no matter how many time you ride them a week, the pressure of a race on home turf is intense.
Did I mention KickStand Coffee & Kitchen was also holding registration on Friday and the biggest after-party/Hip-hop show of the year for Hood River on Saturday. Not to mention the ladies' pre-ride on Wednesday and "Course Preview" shuttle from Dirty Fingers next door on Thursday. As we prepped not only to race that week, we were also prepping the restaurant -- I've never seen so many kegs of beer in one place, let alone refrigerators stocked so completely full by end of day Friday.
Hood River is for me, always the race of the year. For 2018, trails were dry and loose, full of PNW renown Post Canyon "Ball Bearings" (super slick). Last year's Eagle Creek Fire came a little to close to this backyard playground-- a fire line was introduced down one of the two ridge lines in order to save the area from total destruction. In the process, this destroyed a handful of trails, which just happened to be brought back to life just before the race this year. This was exciting as a handful of trails were brand new, or had new features, meaning a more even race across the board. The air was full of nervous energy as this was our first stateside race of the year, and a good one to see how the gym served us over the winter.
Needless to say, I found speed where I never thought I could gain speed, connected little airs and walked away with the "W" and a margin of over a minute. Stoked! Nick took the win as well, making it a good day to be a Hardin! As soon as podiums were over, we rallied to KickStand to make sure all was set for the after-party: red-carpet entry, live music, accessory outside bar, and plenty of burgers. We may or may not have ended up working until midnight, but wouldn't have done without a shuttle with friends the next day. What a weekend!
Off to the next race!